Rankings of The Worst Candy Companies Contributing To Child Labor and Deforestation

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It is estimated that people in the United States alone will spend $2.7 billion on candy for Halloween, and not many of us really think about where that money is going. Unfortunately, many of the companies behind our favorite Halloween candies have some extremely unethical business practices, including the use of child labor in slave-like conditions overseas.

The vast majority of the items that end up in Halloween bags each year come from one of the three major candy companies, Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey, all of which have been shown to have various unethical labor and environmental practices.

This year, an organization called Green America released a ranking of candy companies based on their labor and environmental practices, among other factors. Mars and Nestlé received a “C+” while Hershey received a “C.” The company Godiva failed entirely, but it seems that it was due to a lack of information, or lack of compliance with the study.

Luckily, there were some brands that actually met the standards and ranked high, but these brands a bit less famous and more difficult to find. These brands include Alter Eco, Divine, Endangered Species, Equal Exchange, Shaman, Theo Chocolate, and Tony’s Chocolonely.

Check out the detailed results below:

Earlier this year, a Washington Post report revealed that child labor is still extremely common in the chocolate industry, especially for Hershey, Nestle, and Mars.

Charlotte Tate, the labor justice manager at Green America, says she hopes that this list will help consumers make more conscious decisions on Halloween. She believes that if consumers switch brands, the companies will feel the pressure to change their practices.

“It’ll start to show those brands that consumers do care and that may need to step up their efforts to address child labor and labor abuses and their supply chain,” Tate told Fast Company.

“Within the cocoa industry there seems to be an intersection between labor abuses and environmental practices. So, for example, within the Ivory Coast and Ghana, 90% of their forest has been lost to the cocoa industry,” she added.

Todd Larsen, the executive co-director for consumer and corporate engagement at Green America, says that some of these companies have already been forced to address these images and pledge to do better in the future, but there is some doubt about whether or not these promises will be fulfilled.

“We’ve seen companies announce initiatives where they’re gearing a hundreds of millions of dollars toward the problem . . . [but] we need to see what the results of those initiatives are. We have seen the large companies taking this issue a bit more seriously in the last couple of years, and I think part of that is the consumer awareness and attention,” Larsen says.

Candy is the topic of discussion this week because of the holiday, but unethically manufactured products are ubiquitous in everyday life and it is important for us to start evaluating what we are consuming and where it is coming from, so we can make informed decisions about the types of businesses that we are supporting.

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Thanks for tackling this issue. Too few know the industry has such long had abominable business practices. I will say that due to the economic problems in cocoa producing areas, children being involved is not necessarily horrific. There are many worse things that do happen to children in this region because of the extremity of poverty than earning money for their families by picking cocoa, and not all employment is slavery. It is necessary to zoom in on the particular conditions under which children work in order to ascertain whether or not it is harmful, and it is also imperative to note what the alternatives for those children are.

If there are worse alternatives than picking cocoa, such as being forced into sex slavery, armed conflict, and etc., working on a farm next to their parents is vastly preferential. It's too easy to claim that child labor is abuse, when in fact it can be an alternative to far worse. It is terrible that kids may need to work to eat, but it's better for them to work in good conditions than starve to death, be raped, or have to murder for hire. Sadly, there are few avenues where this information can reliably be sourced, and the amount of disinformation that is used to conceal facts by warlords, well funded corporations, and corrupt governments is disheartening.

Thanks!